Visiting Glacier Bay National Park
There are so many things to do in Glacier Bay National Park, we were delighted to spend two days exploring the 65-mile fjord. It was especially cool having a park ranger narrating this part of the cruise, as well as a native Huna Tlingit naturalist who told us all about the tribes history in the area.
Well have a full story on the national park coming soon. But some of our favorite highlights included seeing tons of wildlife and watching the jaw-dropping calving displays at the famous Margerie Glacier .
The best part for me, as someone who loves traditional indigenous cultures, was hiking through the forest in Bartlett Cove to a remarkably ornate Tlingit tribal house. The native interpreters there gave us an excellent overview of Tlingit culture, which well talk about in more depth in a future post.
Inside Passage Ak Usa Cruises
Inside Passage port guide.
With boundless and ever-changing scenery, spanning 1,000 islands, bays and fjords, Alaskas Inside Passage is one of the most spectacular maritime voyages anywhere in the world. A route once exclusive to explorers and adventurers, sailing the electric blue waters of this pristine wilderness on board a Cunard ship is a uniquely magical experience.
Top landmarks and sights in the Inside Passage.
Stretching for 500 miles, from Puget Sound near Seattle to Juneau and Skagway in the North, this protected region is one of the few where larger vessels can sail enabling you to experience glaciers, forested islands and ice-carved fjords from staggeringly close. Its an experience only an Inside Passage cruise can deliver, the snaking waterway being one of the few to connect Alaskas isolated pockets of civilization with the faster-paced outside world.
Along your travels, youll encounter communities built on Tlingit customs, gold rush towns that appear caught in time, and glaciers so large they dwarf entire cities. Youll follow the route taken by American prospectors in the 19th Century, circumventing protected coves, bays and inlets, reserved exclusively for those exploring by sea.
Things to do in the Inside Passage, Alaska.
Sailing the Inside Passage immerses you in the incomparable beauty of Alaskas wild and untamed landscape, presenting an abundance of photo opportunities and breathtaking moments.
Inside Passage culture and history.
Rainforest Hike To Lake Eva
The last of our cruise excursions before making our way to the port in Sitka was a hike to Lake Eva, which is part of the Tongass National Forest.
Located near the northeast coast of Baranof Island, the Lake Eva trail leads 1.5 miles, from picturesque Hanus Bay to the south end of the lake. Theres also an unmaintained section of the trail, which adds an additional 1.4 miles to the trek and takes you to the remote Lake Eva cabin.
The hike takes you through gorgeous and pristine rainforest, which has thankfully been protected from deforestation. Along the way youll find stunning river reflections wildlife such as birds, Sitka Deer, and Black Bears and several great fishing spots.
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The Best Luxury Cruises To Alaska
Higher-end cruise lines including Crystal Cruises, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, Silversea and Windstar offer Inside Passage itineraries on their mid-size ships or luxury yachts. These appeal to passengers with larger budgets who prefer a quieter atmosphere, smaller crowds, more personal service and plush accommodations. Their all-inclusive package options tend to have a comprehensive range of inclusions. Crystal Cruises’ package, for example, offers penthouse guests personal butler service, and all guests complimentary beer, wine, champagne and spirits throughout the cruise, along with wellness programs, lectures, fitness classes and access to the spa’s steam room and saunas. Regent Seven Seas’ cruises always include unlimited free shore excursions. Entertainment offerings tend to be on the more refined side , as are “enrichments” such as lectures, art classes and wine tasting. Dress codes often apply.
Cruising By Expedition Ship
Whats your style? Compare Alaskan and Inside Passage cruises here:
- Expedition Cruises by Small Ship These are the trips that we at Maple Leaf Adventures have offered for over 25 years. On these inside passage cruises, you are part of a group of 24 or fewer guests, who experience the wonder of the coastline, its wildlife, its rainforests, beaches and cultures. Our trips include: Alaska Adventures , Great Bear Rainforest , Gulf Islands National Park and Vancouver Island area . Also we visit Haida Gwaii / Queen Charlotte Islands, just west of the Inside Passage . Youll go ashore frequently to experience the coastal world, as well as sailing the inside passage .These are all-inclusive cruises. View these Inside Passage expedition cruises.
- Inside Passage Ferry Both the Alaskan and British Columbian government ferry systems operate a transport network between coastal towns. Some people who wish to see the landscape but not spend time exploring it also choose to travel the inside passage this way.
- Big Ship Cruises These are the cruises most people think of when they hear the the words Alaska cruise tour. The ships are about 950 feet long and carry about 2,000 passengers. Unlike small Alaskan cruise ships, these big ships stop only at port towns. The experience is completely different from expedition cruises by sailing ship and are for people who dont wish to experience the nature of Alaska as their top priority.
Inquire about our inside passage trips.
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When You Can Take An Alaska Inside Passage Cruise
The Alaska Cruise season begins in late April and continues through September. Whether you cruise when the Inside Passage is blanketed with spring wildflowers or ablaze with fall foliage you’ll be awed at Alaska’s natural wonders. Spring whale migrations, fall bald eagle gatherings, winter trumpeter swans – exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities and substantial savings can be found during spring and fall.
How To Cruise The Inside Passage For Cheap
October 24, 2017 by Jen Lyons
When I begun planning my Western Canada holiday, I made a list of the things I most wanted to see and do. Of course visiting The Rockies, Vancouver Island and Vancouver were all on that list, but the thing I wanted to do most was cruise the Inside Passage.
I did my research and found that the cruises were expensive. Just seven days cruising return to Vancouver up the Inside Passage to Alaska was going to cost me at least a few thousand dollars. This made me worry that I wouldnt be able to see this place that Ive been dreaming of visiting for so long. At least not on this trip anyway.
So I dug a little deeper because I thought to myself, there really had to be a cheaper way to cruise the Inside Passage. Backpackers and budget travellers wouldnt be parting with thousands of dollars just for a short cruise like that, so I knew there had to be a way.
Finally after hours and hours of research I found it! I found a way to cruise the Inside Passage for cheap and without having to spend days on a cruise. And I want to share this experience with you, so you too can save thousands of dollars but still have the cruise of a lifetime through some of the most scenic waters in the world.
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The Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area
The Last Frontier Adventure sometimes departs from Sitka, but ours began in Juneau. So our first excursion was a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, part of the Tongass National Forest.
The glacier was named for Thomas Mendenhall, who led the National Geodetic Survey from 1889 to 1894, but never actually visited the area. Stretching 13.6 miles long, the gorgeous glacier is part of the Juneau Icefield, the fifth largest icefield in North America.
Attractions here include an impressive Visitor Center and hiking on the East Glacier Loop , Nugget Falls Trail , and Photo Point Trail. We loved the Steep Creek Trail, where we saw a family of Black Bears and a Porcupine.
What To Expect On Your Alaska Cruise
A variety of cruise ships sail to Alaska, including luxury vessels and midsize ships most of which offer expanded kids programs for family vacationers.
National Parks, monuments & forests
Few things make you feel as humble, and as privileged, as standing at a ships rail looking out at Glacier Bay and Kenai Fjords national parks or Misty Fiords National Monument, or making a pre- or post-cruise foray into Denali National Park & Preserve. These raw and powerful lands are proof that there are places on the planet that will never, ever be tamed, and thats exactly why we are so drawn to them.
And then theres Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the nation, which envelops most of Southeast Alaska. Roughly the size of West Virginia, this 500-mile swath of green spreads from the peaks of the Coast Mountains down to the Pacific, from granite cliffs and narrow fjords out to remote islands. Within its borders are old-growth forests, salmon, bears, wolves, eagles, whales and communities of Native people whose ancestors first came to the Tongass more than 10,000 years ago. Any cruise through the Inside Passage is a cruise through Tongass National Forest.
Cities & towns
Other towns that may be part of your itinerary:
Culture & history
Bears, whales & eagles
Cruise tours: By land & by sea
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Alaskan Dream Cruises Vs Uncruise Alaska
Weve always preferred small ship cruises, and not just because smaller cruises are more eco-friendly. They also offer more personal space, better service, better shore excursions, and more exclusive experiences than mega cruise lines like Celebrity Cruises can.
So our trip through the Inside Passage really boiled down to a choice between two small Alaska cruise companies, Alaskan Dream Cruises and UnCruise Adventures. Each of these companies offered quite a few different Alaska cruise routes to choose from.
UnCruise had a slight advantage going in: Wed met with them at a few travel conferences and had heard great things about the company from numerous blogging friends. We also liked the fact that they had six different 7-day Alaska cruise itineraries to choose from in the Inside Passage alone.
Alaskan Dream Cruises was more of a wild card, as wed never heard of them. But we liked the fact that the family that owns the parent company, Allen Marine, are all Alaska natives. They were also the very first company ever to offer an Alaska Inside Passage cruise, and had numerous options available.
In the end, my daughter and I decided that Alaskan Dream Cruises 8-day Last Frontier Adventure had the best Alaska cruise itinerary for us. It offered an active schedule that included lots of hiking and kayaking, indigenous people as the expedition leader and cultural interpreter, and numerous intriguing shore excursions that were not available on any of the UnCruise Alaska trips.
What Is An Alaska Inside Passage Cruise
There is a fair amount of Alaska cruise lingo, and you are very likely to hear about something called the Inside Passage.
The Inside Passage is usually what people refer to when they talk about an Alaska cruise.
Alaskas Inside Passage is a water route between the Gulf of Alaska and Puget Sound. It is a common route for cruise ships that depart from Seattle or Vancouver, and offers stops along Alaska’s panhandle.
The term “Inside Passage” is commonly used to refer to the entire region of Southeast Alaska, as well as British Columbia. This area spans 500 miles of shoreline, with the of the best wildlife and landscape viewing you can see from a ship.
Nearly all Royal Caribbean’s Inside Passage sailings are 7-nights, although the cruise line does offer land-tours that you can add onto your cruise to expand your exploration inland.
In addition to the ports, the Inside Passage features fantastic animal viewing opportunities, with whales, orcas, sea lions, seals, eagles, bears, raptors and more along the way. This is usually why many people that have cruised to Alaska before recommend bringing a good pair of binoculars to be able to see it all from your ship.
Of course, this area is also know for its glaciers and quiet towns your ship may visit. The ports of Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Sitka and more are along the Inside Passage, and known for the natural beauty and incredible history you can discover.
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Best Time To Cruise Inside Passage
Plan ahead and book your cruise of the Inside Passage for the relevant months that best fit the things that you are most interested in seeing and doing. The best time to visit both Alaskas Inside Passage and Canadas Inside Passage is from spring to the end of summer. The temperatures are pleasant and, especially in the summer, the days can be sunny and bright. Do be aware though that, although the rainiest months are generally October and November, that the area is known for lots of rainfall all throughout the year.
You can watch migrating animals returning in the springtime, and wildflowers bursting into bloom in the forests. Summer is the main mating and birthing season for several local species watch as seal pups drift on large blocks of ice and birds teach their offspring to fly and swim. There are also increased chances of seeing whales in the summer. The best time for hiking in the Inner Passages is from mid-summer onwards when the terrain has thawed.
Inside Passage Cruise Terminal
The following map shows all ports of call, islands and destinations visited on traditional Alaska Inside Passage cruise itineraries.
Port Inside Passage cruise ship schedule shows timetable calendars of all arrival and departure dates by month. The port’s schedule lists all ships with cruises going to or leaving from Inside Passage, Alaska-Canada. To see the full itineraries and their lowest rates just follow the corresponding ship-link.
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Doing The Polar Plunge
As much as I loved these other Alaska cruise shore excursions, my favorite activity from my two Alaksa trips was the one we did right off the back deck of the Admiralty Dream.
Back in 2012, Mary and I had a chance to take a small ship cruise of Antarctica. One of the most memorable highlights of that experience was me using FOMO to convince Mary to do the polar plunge in 27ºF waters. The results, for those who havent seen our video, were hilarious!
The waters of Alskass Inside Passage were considerably warmer, so there was no need for ropes to haul us in or doctors waiting with electrical cardioversion paddles in case our hearts stopped. In fact, the weather that day was so unseasonably warm, I decided to do the polar plunge twice!
It was an invigorating way to wind down our 8-day adventure with Alaskan Dream Cruises.
Top Things To Do & See On An Inside Passage Cruise
From observing plentiful wildlife, bird watching, and trying an array of active activities and outdoor pursuits, to honing your photography skills, sightseeing, admiring the dramatic landscapes, and meeting members of local communities, there is so much to experience on an Inside Passage cruise. Some tops things to do when cruising Alaskas and Canadas Inside Passages include:
Glacier Bay National Park – A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Glacier Bay National Park is one of Alaskas real gems. Stretching for 105 kilometres , the many beautiful glaciers are a wondrous sight. The John Hopkins, Marjerie, and McBridge Glaciers are especially popular. Small ship cruises of the Inside Passage let you observe a range of wildlife from close quarters, including whales, seals, sea lions, otters, moose, bears, wolves, deer, and a host of smaller land-living creatures and birds. Kayaking and hiking are amongst the activities you can enjoy.
Frederick Sound – The scenic Frederick Surround separates Admiralty Island and Kupreanof Island. A great place for summer whale watching, the Five Fingers Island Light can present an attractive sight in front of the icy landscapes behind it.
Top Tips for visiting Inside Passage
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Local Currency & Tipping Customs
Youll be cruising during your time through Alaskas Inside Passage. However, Alaska does use the U.S. dollar as its official currency. Alaskas main sources of economic growth and revenue are fishing and tourism. Dont forget to tip tour providers, bartenders, and restaurant servers during your Alaska cruise.
Adventure Cruises In Inside Passage
An Inside Passage Cruise carries passengers along various stretches of the long coastal route. Reaching beyond the USAs state of Alaska along the coast of Canadas British Colombia, Alaskas section of the Inside Passage runs for around 800 kilometres north to south and can span 160 kilometres across. Awash with spectacular scenery that encompasses towering mountains, gleaming glaciers, deep fjords, remote islands, lush forests, and tranquil beaches, theres never a dull moment when you cruise the Inside Passage. A haven for wildlife fans, adventure junkies, and people who love to learn more about different cultures, Inside Passage cruises really are amongst the top adventure cruises in Alaska.
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End Of The Expedition
Estimated time of arrival is 6:00 AM
Your expedition concludes back in Vancouver. If youve arranged to spend more time here at the end of your journey, theres always something cultural going on in this picturesque metropolis between water and mountains.
Take in a few of its many art galleries or learn about First Nations cultures at the museums. Go on a café crawl on trendy Granville Island, or visit the multicultural food stalls at the night market in Richmond. You can also make the most of the summer weather over at sandy Kitsilano Beach.
We also offer a tempting Post-Programme to the nearby mountain resort of Whistler via Shannon Falls and a ride on the Sea to Sky Gondola 880m above sea level.